Here’s a timely excerpt from my book Power Points in Time, all about winter solstice.
With love from me, and Happy Everythings. Paldywan.
To deal with winter we must consolidate, come together and work at it. This shift happens fully at winter solstice, when the darkness is maximal and everything stands still. It’s a time for celebration around the fire, eating and making merry – or perhaps sorting out some of the family stresses that no one had time to work through before!
We have made it through the changes and challenges of life and we find ourselves still here, together once again as a kinship group of blood, soul or commonality – and it’s a time for grandparents, for harking back and reflecting on a sense of posterity.
This is our family. Ultimately our family is humanity, but our emotional security needs require something more local and personal, made up of people whose names we know, with whom we have common history and/or genetics. We are capable of feeling a personal connection with and looking into the eyes of perhaps 50-80 people at any time – beyond this things get impersonal, no matter how friendly we might be. This is the basis of extended families, whether genetic or of the soul.
The fruits of the past year are shared and eaten, even to excess, after a solsticial pause for awareness or prayer, or for moments of wonder and goodwill. The seeds of the coming year are laid here in the relative quietness of this time of contemplation and rest. In former days when resources were meagre, the Yule feast represented a necessary stocking up of fat and nutrition to help everyone survive the winter. Modern affluence has turned this into an orgy of consumerist excess, sozzled stupor and TV overdoses, but it wasn’t always so.
To get through winter we must engage in regularised routines, fulfil our social obligations, act sensibly, pace ourselves and stay within the bounds of socially-acceptable behaviour. It’s time to be low-key, sleeping and recharging our batteries at the opposite end of the year to frenetic summertime, with its work and activity. Summer gives meaning to winter and vice versa. While autumn was a time of becoming, winter is a time for living with what we have and what we are. That’s what you get, and that’s that. If last year’s harvest was insufficient, you go hungry and hide in bed, lying low until a better time.
Forty-five days after winter solstice the ascending light is clearly evident. It’s still cold, perhaps even colder, but a change is apparent. This is the winter cross-quarter, Candlemas or Imbolc, when the Sun is around 15° Aquarius. By this time winter has been with us long enough to become tiresome, and something in us starts looking forward to a change. We relish the growing light. The first signs of growth will come in the weeks that follow – in Britain, that’s snowdrops followed by daffodils. In colder climes this is a snow-covered period of light and crispness, good for getting out the skis or skates, bringing in the felled logs on sledges from the forest, or breaking holes in the ice to drop a line through for fishing.
Acceptance of winter realities gives way to an urge for something different, a hankering for springtime. Yet the winter quarter is not done – not yet. The coming change is so great that we must be held awhile in arrested progress to help us put things on the right footing. Gardeners must dig the earth, spread compost and prepare seed-beds. Tools need fixing, houses need cleaning, things need sorting out – it’s a necessary time of preparation.
The back end of winter, leading up to spring equinox, is spent fulfilling our obligations to the situation we’re in, accepting that everything has its time. Something is stirring deep down – the hope, the aspiration, the necessary understanding that will act as a foundation for what is to come. By now we’re tired enough of winter to generate the will to wrench ourselves free of winter habits and move forward. A time of reality-adjustment is here, starting after Candlemas and peaking just before spring equinox.
You can get the book here, from Penwith Press